In 2023, Pakistan remained among the world's three most polluted countries, alongside Bangladesh and India, replacing Chad and Iran, as per data published on Tuesday. The particulate matter concentration, specifically PM2.5, in these countries exceeded the World Health Organisation's recommended level by about 15 times.

Bangladesh recorded an average PM2.5 concentration of 79.9 micrograms per cubic meter, while Pakistan's stood at 73.7 micrograms. The WHO recommends a limit of no more than 5 micrograms.

Christi Chester Schroeder, the air quality science manager at IQAir, attributed the high pollution levels in South Asia to climatic and geographical factors, compounded by agricultural practices, industrial activities, and population density. She expressed pessimism, suggesting that the situation might worsen before improving.

In 2022, Bangladesh ranked fifth in air quality, while India was eighth. Approximately 20 percent of premature deaths in Bangladesh are linked to air pollution, with healthcare costs amounting to 4-5 percent of the country's GDP, according to Md Firoz Khan, an air pollution expert at Dhaka's North South University.

India also experienced a rise in pollution, with PM2.5 levels surpassing the WHO standard by 11 times. New Delhi emerged as the worst-performing capital city, with a PM2.5 level of 92.7 micrograms.

China saw a 6.3 percent increase in PM2.5 levels to 32.5 micrograms in 2023, following five consecutive annual declines. Only a few countries, including Australia, Estonia, Finland, Grenada, Iceland, Mauritius, and New Zealand, met the WHO standards for air quality.

The IQAir report analyzed data from over 30,000 monitoring stations across 134 countries and regions. Chad, previously the most polluted country in 2022, was excluded due to data issues, along with Iran and Sudan in 2023.

Christa Hasenkopf, director of the Air Quality Life Index at the University of Chicago's Energy Policy Institute, highlighted the lack of public air quality monitoring in 39 percent of countries. She emphasized the need for a global effort to address these data gaps, especially in regions where air pollution poses significant health risks.

Written By Web Desk

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